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TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS

Yes

 

Symphonic Prog

3.88 | 1720 ratings

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ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars I have to say that when I first heard this album a year or so after it was released, I didn’t just not like it, I actually hated it. Of course I was something like fourteen years old at the time and my favorite songs were stuff like “Hitchin’ a Ride” and “Love Rollercoaster”, so this was a bit beyond my ability to deal with at the time. It’s only been in maybe the past ten or fifteen years that I can actually listen through the entire thing without getting bored or distracted, although it’s not the kind of album one listens to all that often.

Musically this is quite an achievement, I suppose. Four lengthy and complex works that tell the story of – I don’t know, yoga or something, not sure. I know there is a Buddhist influence of some sort to the lyrics, although I doubt if too many fans at the time (or since) have really taken the time to try and decipher the meaning, if there is any.

It’s been said that this album, along with Genesis’ ‘Lamb…’ and Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick helped to hasten the downfall of progressive music in the mid-70s. Perhaps. It is a pretty pretentious piece of work, full of incessant noodling on the part of Rick Wakeman (who has argued repeatedly he never liked the album in the first place), as well as by Steve Howe. That said, in recent years I’ve taken the time to really listen to Howe’s guitar work, and for the most part it is quite spectacular, although I must admit the band could have accomplished just as much in a much abbreviated fashion, ie., without some of the long and seemingly pointless instrumental passages.

If I had to pick a favorite track, it would be “The Revealing Science of God” with its highly recognizable vocal peak around the fifth minute, although every time I crank this one up I find myself fiddling with the turntable’s volume because it takes so long to actually register on the mixer’s LCDs. I actually love Anderson’s vocals at the end of this song, along with Howe’s harmonic guitar accompaniment. Unfortunately the rest of the album is not as strong.

This is particularly true of “The Remembering”, which has all the trademark sounds of a symphonic progressive epic, but in the end fails to really capture the imagination. It seems like a twenty minute-long track should merit more discussion, but I really can’t think of much more to say than that. It is what it is. Selah.

“The Ancient” on the other hand has some terrific acoustic guitar with a mystic and sometimes jazzy feel to it, but here again there seems to be quite a bit of showing off, particularly on the part of Wakeman. I really don’t understand why he pans this album so much considering the integral part his keyboards play in it.

“Ritual” is the strongest track as far as Chris Squire’s contributions are concerned, although Howe is omnipresent here as well. This is also the most energetic track with some torrid climaxes of keyboard and percussion effects, along with Alan White’s thunderous drum solo around the middle portion.

I really don’t have a lot to say about this album, except that I think accusations it was a key player in progressive music’s demise are probably just as inflated as they are true. I wonder if this would have been better-received if it had been released prior to Close to the Edge, instead of in the midst of a mid-70s pop and punk explosion. Perhaps. In the end though this is an essential album for Yes fans, and probably for progressive music fans in general. But when considered not just for its historical value, but also for its actual artistic merit, it has to be considered no better than pretty good. So three stars it is.

peace

ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |

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